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Anime Weekend Atlanta 8
By Ridwan Khan, Adam Arnold, & En Hong
Anime Weekend Atlanta is known unofficially as the "Fan's Con." In many respects this is true; usually not many announcements are made at AWA, nor do many big names come to the con. Instead, AWA tends to focus on giving the public the most fun it can, and AWA 8 did not disappoint.
Anime Weekend Atlanta 8, bested last year's rather flat AWA 7 in nearly every respect. Due to world events, AWA 7 was a bust for a number of reasons; many vendors did not come and singer Mari Iijima's scheduled concert was cancelled, as Ms. Iijima (known for the song 'Do You Remember Love?' from the Macross movie of the same name) couldn't fly over. While Mari could not make it this year (perhaps frightened off by my marriage proposal on the card that was left out to sign for her at AWA 7), the dealer room was packed, and this year's con was much livelier than the last. Additionally, Atlanta's Sheraton Hotel and Convention Center seemed much more prepared for the onslaught of otaku for this year than the last. For AWA 7, the Sheraton didn't seem to believe the con would go on 24 hours a day, but AWA and the Sheraton seem to have gotten past those growing pains.
This year's music video festival was uninspiring. Granted, I'm not a huge fan of anime music videos in any case, however this year's seemed especially boring. It's not that they were bad, technically or anything, they just seemed flat. There were a couple of standouts, including a version of the Muppets' Happiness Hotel done to Ranma 1/2 and Scatman with video from Dragonball Z, but for the most part, the videos were uninteresting.
The dealer's room was well stocked with goodies: plushies, t-shirts, cels, manga, videos, and DVDs. By Saturday afternoon, however, stocks were running low on a few of the more popular items (AWA 8 t-shirts and Hamtaro plush dolls come to mind). Also, there seemed to be a record low on video tapes. Make no mistake, VHS is on the way out. It's time to decide what you want on DVD and what needs to be digitally backed up, VHS isn't going to be a factor in anime fandom for much longer. Disney had a large booth in the room for Spirited Away. The booth had the movie playing and gave away posters. Overall, Disney's appearance was a subtle and respectful.
Of the anime screenings, a number of the series shown have not been released in America yet, including Tenchi Muyo GXP, Azumanga Daioh, Chobits, and Puni Puni Poemi. Other screenings included Urusei Yatsura, Otaku no Video, Char's Counterattack and other classics. Kudos to the AWA staff for picking a healthy mix of new and old, fan favorites and lesser-known classics. Also of note were the Hong Kong/Japanese Live action movie screenings, including The Ring (which was the basis for the new American movie), Baka Tonno-sama, Mothra 3, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and the much anticipated Shaolin Soccer.
The cosplaying this year was also excellent. As the pictures will show, the fans at AWA went the extra yard in creativity. My favorites this year included the several Lulus (Final Fantasy X), Shiva (Final Fantasy), Mario (Mario Bros.), and adorable little girl dressed as Sakura (Cardcaptor Sakura), M.Bison (Street Fighter), and the usual assortment of kimonos, catgirls, and schoogirls.
AWA's panels ranged from interesting to boring; Friday had a number of interesting panels, including J-Rock and Why Learn Japanese?. ADV held a panel Saturday, probably the most interest generally of that day. There were a few other panels of general interest, including AnimEigo and DVD Production. Overall, most fans would have been best catching one or two panels during each day.
Overall, this year's AWA was a great experience for the fan. While the lack of Japanese manga or anime creators and singers was disappointing, the AWA staff obviously planned to make the experience a good one for fans.
I must say that Anime Weekend Atlanta 8 was like a breath of fresh air for me when compared to some of the mammoth-sized cons I've been too. It's a fun and interesting place filled with tons of cosplayers and a video room around almost every corner. I had so much fun last year that I just had to come back, but I think some of the novelty wore off this go around. I'll miss this convention center though; I sure hope the con doesn't suffer at the new site next year. Still, it was a fun trip and I got to see and buy quite a few things.
Speaking of buying, the dealer's room was a bit overpriced, especially when it came to Japanese import CDs. Some of the prices were flat out ridiculous when compared to some of the prices I'm used to seeing from websites like CDJapan. I guess the inflated prices spring from the fact that the dealers don't have to compete against pirated knockoffs since AWA has a very strict policy against that. That goes for Taiwan CDs, Hong Kong DVDs, and even fansubs. Needless to say, if you were expecting to find some hairy guy selling a crappy copy of a copy of the movie Spirited Away then think again.
Yes, I go to cons to buy stuff. It's a fact of life that I've now been forced to refrain myself from spending three paychecks worth of cash. So when I stepped into the dealer's room this year I was only concerning myself with finding some unique manga to add to my collection. Of particular note were the Iro-Hina (semi-colorized) versions of Love Hina Vol.1 and Vol.2 that came with some cool premium items. I also picked up four volumes of Ken Akamatsu's previous series AI Ga Tomaranai as well as a Devil Gundam model kit. Sadly, I was looking for something of my favorite G-Gundam fighter, the Nobel Gundam... But that precious beauty was nowhere to be found.
Okay, I did check out a couple of panels including the two-hour long AnimEigo panel where they introduced their new marketing director who worked for Disney in the past. Yes, that's right AnimEigo is finally making strides to become more than just a simple word-of-mouth company. And rightfully so, with that huge debt that they've racked up from remastering the entire DVD collection of Kimagure Orange Road, they better become more mainstream or these guys are going to die a painful death. One comment from the panel went something like, "60 thousand dollars, I coulda bought a Corvette for that much." Sad but true, the vengeful wrath of the otaku is one thing you DON'T want after you.
Still, AnimEigo is cleaning up their act. The first thing the did at their panel was pass out a survey consisting of 26 questions to see exactly what their market is and what they think of all their titles. Everything from how many volumes of a series do you own to how you would grade them was on this thing. The prize for filling this lengthy thing out was a nifty little key ring, not the crappy kind, but rather the kind you can go mountain climbing with.
ADV's panel was a blast as usual. If you have never been to one of their panels, then you don't know what you are missing out on. The start with rattling off a long list of titles for the sake of all the news sites out there (and Anime on DVD, since they are always in the front row). Next they show off a few of the titles they are working on. This go-round they showed off the menus of the upcoming Chance Pop Session DVD to show off Saiyuki to all the females in the audience. They also showed a bit of the Zone of the Enders TV Series check disc to prove that they were in fact doing Full Metal Panic. To round it out they spotlighted their hilarious menu system for Excel Saga Vol.3, which is set-up like a game show with several different bits of dialogue on each menu. Oh, and let's not for get the Menchi Recipes in the extras section. Hmm, "Menchi on a Stick" sounds yummy.
After some question and answer, ADV's panel shifts to quiz mode where they dispense free DVDs to people who can guess the right answer. And no, they didn't ask the "Arc The Lad Question." Too bad... I would've gotten that one right.
There were some panels that got cancelled though, like Bandai's and Media Blasters'. Cartoon Network put on a decent show at their panel, but nothing really interesting came from it. They did show the full uninterrupted "The Invader" and "Lockdown" segments of their Toonami weeklong events though.
The video game room was surprisingly over crowded, so I instead hopped in my car and drove a few exits down from the convention center to the Southlake Mall. There I had dinner and played my fill of Dance Dance Revolution Max 2 (7th Mix) and a few rounds of Pump It Up! Collection. You can't blame me, the lines for the gaming rooms were insane!
On Friday night there was a rather unique little event called the 'Final Fantasy Ball' where a bunch of cosplayers/actors dressed up as Final Fantasy VIII characters and played out the awesome ballroom scene from that game. Anyway, it was a huge event and actually exceeded max capacity. Of course, I came underdressed (yeah, surprising considering I normal dress rather formally as it is) and would have been turned away anyway. So, I went to drown my sorrows in some good old fashioned video room viewing. My choice however happened to be The End of Evangelion (I've seen it over 10 times now as it is). Eerily, the song "Eyes on Me" could be echoing throughout the entire convention center and it's kind of hear to sit and watch Misato try to help Shinji out of his fix while that song is playing. Evangelion and Final Fantasy simply don't mix!
I did some other cool stuff, but I won't bore you will the details. Hopefully, I'll see everyone again at next year's con!
Not having been to any 'real' anime conventions before, I really didn't know what to expect from Anime Weekend Atlanta. My hopes were that it would be swarming with lots of scantily-clad cosplaying Asian hotties. My expectations were that it would be swarming with lots of scantily clad crossplaying large white men. So, after convincing my friends that there would be much of the former (and none of the latter) there, we headed down to the airport, where there were to be shuttles to take us to and from the convention center.
While at the airport, we were witness to an epic event beyond all imagining. The hotel shuttle was there. The handicap ramp was extended. The driver was trying to figure out how to retract the ramp. After a few minutes he disappeared without any success in his endeavor. After 30 minutes and a 300 pound Caucasian Kenshin had passed, a sudden urge to jump on the shuttle and drive it into the next 747 overcame me. Before I could act on these urges though, another shuttle came and we were taken to the convention center.
I had in mind to check out the Dealers room, the Manga Entertainment panel, and the Bandai panel. After walking past quite a few people (with nary a cosplaying hottie in sight) I headed over registration.
Now with a shiny badge to partake in the con's events, I took a stroll around the Dealers room. I hoped to pick up some cheap DVDs, manga, or wall scrolls. Little did I know that con dealers are a breed that sells merchandise only at retail (or higher). Everything I saw I knew I could find online for much cheaper, even after shipping. Ah well, I didn't come here to shop, I came for pure journalistic productivity. Onward to the Manga Entertainment Panel.
The 'Panel' consisted of one person. He was a cool, large black dude with an orange goatee. After fielding a few questions (which seemed to all revolve around Mad Bull and pubic grenades) the panelist was totally oblivious to the threat lurking within the front row. I waited for the wind to be right, then pounced with a demand for Manga Entertainment to explain themselves over the incredible delay of the End of Evangelion DVD. It was a demand as far as politely phrased questions can be demanding, but my delusional narrative will continue. A mask of pure fear oozed over his features (as I recall), and he glanced around nervously while recanting a tale of conspiracy and horror. Actually, he sat there calmly and told me that there was an art issue with the original DVD box art that had to be resolved with some legal folks in Japan. Undaunted, I waited for my next opportunity to attack. It never came up as people ran out of questions and he moved onto their upcoming releases. Read or Die is slated for a single DVD release early next year, and I will dread the coming of Fist of the North Star on DVD in early 2003 as well.
Having been defeated by the Manga Entertainment panel, I resolved to be victorious against the Bandai Behemoth. I headed over the convention room where they would be and waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, there was an announcement that Bandai had not sent a representative, so the panel would be cancelled. Foiled at every turn! Confused at my utter lack of victory, I headed to the Anime Music Video (AMV) room.
While retreating to the AMV theater, I did spot a Chii clad only in trailing white ribbons -which attracted my attention until I realized that she was probably 15. As much as I'd like to point out that Utada Hikaru recently married someone 19 years her senior, so someone my age eyeing something 4 years his junior is perfectly normal, it's not. It's damn freaky in my book. That being said, I trekked up to watch some good AMVs. It proved to be the high point of the con for me, as they were showing off many nicely done videos. The showcase ended quickly though, and a session on how to make AMV's was slated to begin. Since I'm already proficient in the arts of video editing, I looked on my schedule to see if anything else was worth seeing. Nothing really caught my eye, so I headed to the exit. On the way, I did see the best example of cosplaying... ever. A woman had dressed up her 3-year old daughter as Sumomo. She was holding a little Sumomo plush doll too. Needless to say, it was incredibly cute.
And that was the end of my adventure at Anime Weekend Atlanta. Though I didn't see any incredibly fine girls cosplaying, I also didn't see any incredibly horrible things either. There's no permanent mental scarring, so I figure it's a semi-victory.